As a public school teacher, I’m in the middle of my summer break, and one of my big priorities is kid bonding.
Now, I don’t mean using bondo wood filler on a kid, but rather taking the time to grow closer as a father to my three pre-teen daughters.
The kid bonding challenge of the summer
I am a public school teacher. My salary is not commensurate with my education (or what it would be in the private sector) and money gets tight. In the summer, I’m not “paid to have the summer off.” Rather, I have money withheld from my check to be reimbursed to me in the summer.
Imagine living on 10 months salary for 12 months.
The result is I have to make additional money. Sometimes I can do that through stipends for things at school, but middle school stipends are low. Sometimes it is a part-time job.
But not in the summer – a prime money making time for teachers. Why?
I’m a father of divorce. That means my time with my children, currently 11-years-old and 12-year-old twins, is limited. Far more limited than I want.
In some ways I’m lucky. I get the kids more than the parenting plan calls for and I appreciate it, but it still isn’t enough.
During the 8-week summer, I have the children with me for six of those weeks, at least. Sometimes a seventh week sneaks in.
Do I spend 30 or 40 hours a week working a summer camp or engaged in another summer job? Financially, I should. But I’ve shifted my priorities.
The summers have become a prime time for reconnection and getting to know my children more intimately.
This is a season for my girls and I to laugh, talk, argue, fight, play, cry, and get to know each other better. I don’t strap ’em to my side as they spend plenty of time with their friends in the neighborhood, but it is a critical time for reinforcing the idea that my home is their home – one of two homes they have.
It is not an easy choice, as I need the money. However, I think that my girls need their father more. I think that time together is better spent than my working.
I’m lucky. With careful financial planning and tight money management, I can usually manage the summer. It is not always easy, but it is important to me.
I had a friend who was a father of divorce, as well. He’d usually claim he had to work for an excuse to not see his children. I never understood how getting off work at 5:30 or 6 precluded taking the kids out for a quick dinner. Did he have to work every single Saturday so his weekend visits were truncated? Maybe he did, I don’t know his financial situation.
But could he have made time? When he was at the bar after work, could he have been at dinner with his kids? When he was at the gym on Saturday afternoons? Watching football for six hours on Sunday?
Priority is a key when it comes to kid bonding. You make it happen, or you don’t. Period.